The Pittsburgh Steelers did not get past the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs, but if one thing continues to be true throughout the playoffs, secondary play matters more than ever. The Chiefs got there on the backs of fantastic play from their secondary, while the play of the back end ended up being the undoing of some teams.
This is my biggest takeaway, largely because the Chiefs did a lot of their defensive damage on the back of a great secondary. Guys like L’Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie stood out in massive ways to help boost Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, and it is part of why he can blitz at liberty. There is no true weakness back there, and even if guys like Jaylen Watson are not All-Pros, they are athletic starter-level players. The Chiefs did not have great weapons this year and, at times, struggled to get consistency out of their tackle duo.
How, in part, did they skirt by? It is a fantastic defense powered by a Chris Jones-led front and a secondary full of athletic, versatile players who fit the scheme well. Listen, the Steelers have many questions to answer in the secondary. But they have a dynamic safety in Minkah Fitzpatrick and a young, emerging cornerback in Joey Porter Jr. Load up on the secondary and invest in it. Make a run at Sneed, who is from the Chiefs secondary but is a free agent.
To me, one of the easiest ways the Steelers can at least hold out and win games with their quarterback situation is to create an elite defense and a feared secondary. The rest of the team must pick up the burden to a degree. So, the secondary is the top need on defense, and they need to make it a top priority this offseason.
The Steelers just have to do a better job of cobbling together a secondary that can be feared. It’s a huge reason why they have consistently fallen apart in the playoffs. This year, they were missing T.J. Watt, but that group also could not match the Bills athletically. And so, moving forward, the team has to make that effort to strengthen the secondary. It could be what helps them stay afloat and play their ugly ball style of defense throughout an entire game rather than letting teams pounce on them early to get into massive leads.